An aging and increasingly overweight work force is challenging many manufacturing and logistics companies. The need for innovation in well designed and ergonomic working platforms is more pressing than ever.
Various studies show clearly how a well-designed working platform significantly boosts productivity and increases the quality of the job performed.
Operators benefit too, with less risk of injuries, particularly to the back, neck, and wrists. A more productive, more ergonomic, and safer workplace has obvious appeal, but the design of the working platforms is crucial.
What the ideal working platform looks like
“There are two main things to think about when designing working platforms,” says Erik Dahllöf, design engineer at Marco.
“The working platform is there specifically to create the ideal position for the operator. In other words, a work stance that supports all the various job movements involved, with everything at the right height at the right time.
Designers must put themselves in the operator’s shoes, and recognize too that different companies may do the same job in different ways.”
Erik believes that a well-designed working platform creates a sense of freedom for the operator. Being able to work in a helpful environment enables operators to perform their tasks without being slowed by inconvenient tools or equipment. This creates a feel-good feeling for the operator and helps them get in the zone.
“Studies have shown that operators do a better job in that situation, with higher quality and less waste,” says Erik. “And with everything positioned at the optimal height whatever the operator’s size or physical limitations, this ergonomic solution avoids twisting and turning and reduces physical strain on the body.”
Operators can work longer with a sustained focus over a longer period without pain or sick leave, which not only reduces costs to the company but also improves operators’ quality of life.
Creating a stable and quick solution
Clearly, a well-designed working platform is a real win-win for everyone. But what lies behind good platform design?
“You need a versatile hydraulic product line to position operators and their equipment quickly and accurately,” says Erik. “Just a few seconds saved, multiple times per hour, quickly add up to big savings over a year.”
“You may also need sheer strength,” says Erik. “A scissor platform that can lift heavy loads enables multiple operators and their equipment to be positioned quickly and accurately.” This is a major consideration when deciding on the type of technology.
If you need a solution that can manage multiple operators and heavy equipment, the scissor platform is superior to boom lifts, for example. Platforms can be larger and are also easier to maneuver in confined spaces. Stability, with freedom from vibration and unwanted movement, is key to higher quality.
“Finally, take supplier reliability into account,” adds Erik. “Look for a supplier with a proven quality record and commercial resilience. A broken lift can prove devastatingly expensive if the line has to stop. And what if the supplier is no longer around to repair it?”
Unclear legislation and need for individual risk assessments
While the current legislation (EN 1570) is sufficient for many applications, it is not ideal for working platforms. “The legislation focuses on lifting goods and an accompanying operator, and not on work carried out from the platform. Yet this is the most hazardous situation,” says Erik.
“We expect the legislation to be updated. Until then, individual risk assessments for every working platform are very important. To create the right platform we must understand all the activities that will take place. This enables us to design the perfect platform for the job at hand.”
Erik believes thorough risk assessments are among the most challenging of tasks, demanding long experience in health and safety. “Nevertheless, they are key to designing working platforms that avoid high costs – human and financial,” he concludes.
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